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Sleep | Dopesmoker | review | stoner | rock | Lollipop

Sleep

Dopesmoker (Tee Pee)
by Brian Varney

Though considered one of the biggest, best, and most important bands in stoner rock's short history, Sleep has always bored me to death. Holy Mountain, generally considered the band's peak recording, manages to pack in all of the volume and plod of classic Sabbath but completely removes the innate swing of Sab's blues roots. The result is completely devoid of any sort of songcraft, merely droning on and on with seemingly no purpose, like a stoner stuck in a horrible endless loop between the TV and the fridge, vacillating back and forth but never reaching either.

How odd it is, then, that Sleep's one shining moment is the fabled Jerusalem, a single 52-minute love letter to weed that comprised the band's final recording. Free of the strictures of even making a passing attempt at writing songs, Jerusalem allows the band to play variations on the same riff for nearly an hour, thereby not only singing the praises of marijuana, but also providing the auditory equivalent of its high. Dopesmoker is an early alternate version of Jerusalem, adding ten-plus minutes and a heavier, fuzzier mix (courtesy of Mr. Billy Anderson) to produce, if possible, an even more synapse-destroying experience than before. I remember reading a review of an early Black Sabbath album where the writer said the band sounded like a brontosaurus trapped in a tar pit, a much more apt description for Dopesmoker than for Sabbath, who, though undoubtedly slow and heavy, were never this monolithic. Say what you will about Sleep as slack-jawed stoners, but it takes work to maintain this degree of slow and heavy for over an hour, so at least give 'em credit for doing their homework (and the appropriate "research"). This is the record that justifies Sleep's existence and most of the praise thrown their way, so if you're only gonna own one, this here's it.
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